Ithaca police complete internal review of incident with white officer, black teens

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August 28, 2014

The Ithaca Police Department has completed its internal review of a recent incident involving a white police officer and black teenagers.

At around 10p.m. on August 9, Ithaca police officers received reports of two fires on the city’s west side. Off-duty officers were called to help with the investigation. About two hours later, one of the off-duty officers, Sgt. John Norman, pulled his gun on a suspect after a short chase.

The encounter led to concern from the parents and community groups. According to the police report, the suspects were initially approached simply because they were seen near the scene of the crime. There have been questions raised about whether the teenagers seen passing by on bicycles became suspects because they were black. According to the official report, police are told to look for people coming back to the scene of the crime when investigating arson.

It occurred on the same night as the killing of Michael Brown, a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., by a white police officer. That killing led to days of conflict in the streets between demonstrators and the local police force.

The Ithaca police department’s internal review found that Norman had followed proper procedure when he unholstered his firearm. But the report also found that, despite being off-duty, Norman should have been wearing a jacket identifying him as a police officer and driving a marked car.

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick is also calling for more community policing on the West Side of Ithaca. The teenagers were released without having charges filed.